By "immediate" I mean "without means", specifically
"without Word and sacraments". Where God promises to be present for us
with his grace is in Word and sacraments, the "means of grace" which God
chooses to use. Of course God is always present, but not necessarily in
a saving way & perhaps even in judgment. & of course God _may_ choose
to work immediately, as he did with St. Paul. But we have no promise
that he will do so, & thus cannot expect or demand this.
We are to seek God where God promises to be present for us, not
where we think God should meet us. This is actually related to the
problem of natural theology which has been discussed here before.
This does not mean that grace only "happens" in the moment of
hearing the Word, or receiving Baptism or the Supper. Pascal's
encounter, e.g., didn't happen in a vacuum but in a context in which he
had heard of the "God of Abraham, God of Isaac, God of Jacob, God of
One of the problems of enthusiasm & similar movements (e.g.,
revivalism) is that people are easily misled into thinking that their
emotional state is an indication of spirituality, and that their
opinions have been dictated by the Holy Spirit.
George L. Murphy